On Sunday, the authorities in Palestine informed that two of its citizens with recent travel to Pakistan had tested positive for the deadly Wuhan Coronavirus. As such, the two infected patients became the first case of COVID-19 in the Gaza strip, one of the most densely populated areas with poverty levels as high as 50%.
Authorities in #Gaza confirm the first two cases of novel #coronavirus, identifying the individuals as Palestinians who had traveled to Pakistan and were held in quarantine on their return.#COVID_19https://t.co/hhK4ENsJyo— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) March 22, 2020
The patients had been shifted to an isolation ward at a hospital in the city of Rafah. Around 1,270 people had been quarantined after they entered Gaza from Israel and Egypt. 55 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus in the West bank. No cases of death had been reported so far in Palestine. Wedding halls and markets have been shut down as precautionary measures.
Deputy health minister Yousef Abu Al-Reesh said, “These two cases were recorded among those who returned to Gaza (and) did not mix with the residents of the Gaza Strip.”
The new development has now created a state of panic in the region with limited testing capabilities. Gaza has only 60 intensive care (ICU) beds for roughly 2 million people. The health system is overstretched due to the acute shortage of staff.
“Everything I am hearing is if the outbreak reaches the magnitude where you need more than 60 ICU beds to treat, it will become increasingly difficult and could well turn into a disaster of gigantic proportions”, the Gaza director of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA, Matthias Schmale was quoted as saying.
Owing to the ongoing conflict between Radical Islamist terror outfit Hamas, and the Israeli Government, the Gaza strip has been under blockade since 2007. This perhaps explains the delay in the arrival of COVID-19 pandemic in the region.